HOUSTON  — U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and the Houston Airport System today announced the launch of Simplified Arrival at George Bush Intercontinental Airport delivering a seamless and more touchless travel experience for travelers returning from an international trip.

CBP officer using Simplified Arrival
A CBP officer in Houston  uses Simplified Arrival to process an 
arriving international traveler.

Simplified Arrival is an enhanced international arrival process that uses biometric facial comparison technology to automate the manual document checks that are already required for admission into the United States.

“Simplified Arrival allows international travelers to experience a more touchless, seamless and intuitive process when arriving here,” said CBP Director of Houston Field Operations Jud Murdock. “This modern process reduces the direct contact between our officers and the traveling public during primary inspection.”

Simplified Arrival only uses facial comparison technology at a time and place where travelers are already required by law to verify their identity by presenting a travel document. When travelers arrive at IAH on an international flight, they will pause for a photo at the primary inspection point. CBP’s biometric facial matching service will compare the new photo of the traveler to a small gallery of high-quality images that the traveler has already provided to the government, such as passport and visa photos.

Simplified Arrival pairs one of the industry’s highest ranked facial comparison algorithm (as assessed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology) with trained CBP officers who are skilled at verifying the authenticity of travel documents. If a traveler cannot be matched to a photo on record using Simplified Arrival, the traveler will undergo the traditional inspection process consistent with existing requirements for entry into the United States. 

Eligible travelers who wish to opt out of the new biometric process may notify a CBP officer as they approach the primary inspection point. These travelers will be required to present a valid travel document for inspection by a CBP officer and they will be processed consistent with existing requirements for admission into the United States.

CBP is committed to its privacy obligations and has taken steps to safeguard the privacy of all travelers. CBP has employed strong technical security safeguards and has limited the amount of personally identifiable information used in the facial biometric process. New photos of U.S. citizens will be deleted within 12 hours. Photos of most foreign nationals will be stored in a secure Department of Homeland Security system.

Biometric facial comparison technology enhances CBP’s ability to facilitate lawful travel and secure the border and fulfills a longstanding congressional mandate to biometrically record the entry and exit of non-U.S. citizens.  To date, more than 52 million travelers have participated in the biometric facial comparison process at air, land and sea ports of entry. Since September 2018, CBP has leveraged facial biometrics to prevent nearly 300 imposters from illegally entering the United States by using genuine travel documents that were issued to other people.

More information about CBP’s efforts to secure and streamline travel through facial biometrics is available here.

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